July 2010

July 19 – Happy Birthday Bob Meusel

Imagine if today, there were brothers starting in left field for both the Yankees and Mets and both were All Stars. They’d be Madison Avenue darlings.

From 1921 to 1924, Elmer Frederick “Irish” Meusel was John McGraw’s left-fielder on four consecutive pennant winning and two world championship teams. His four season RBI total for the Giants beginning in 1922, was 470.

Irish was not, however, the best left fielder playing for the home team in the Polo Grounds, back then. He was not even considered the best left-fielder in his family. That honor went to his younger and much more ornery brother Bob, who played for the Yankees. The Big Apple has not had a set of better-playing brothers since the Meusels were in town.

Consider this. In 1922, Irish drove in 111 runs for the Giants and “Long Bob” led the AL in RBIs with 138. That’s a total of 249 RBI’s from one set of brothers. In 1941, The DiMaggio boys had 283 RBIs in one season but there were three of them. Even more impressively, in the five seasons from 1921 until 1925, the Meusel brothers combined to drive in 1,125 runs.

If the Meusel’s were around today, I could see Reebok or Nike releasing a new pair of baseball shoes. The left one would be called the “Irish” and the right one, “Long Bob.” Or perhaps modern sneaker companies would have been turned off by the  attitude and behavior of today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant.

As I dug deeper into the younger Meusel’s background, I found he had developed a reputation for being lazy on the field. Such criticism came not just from sportswriters of that era but from Meusel’s own Manager, the great Miller Huggins. It was also referenced in his New York Time’s obituary which stated that Meusel’s alleged laziness may have been in appearance only, caused by the fact that the tall, graceful athlete had such a long and loping stride, that he always looked like he was running slow even when he was not. I also found articles indicating that Meusel was not known as a very friendly guy. In 1924, he charged the pitcher in a game in Detroit with his bat-in-hand setting off one of the worst riots in MLB history. Other published accounts described the California native as “dark” and “moody” and a perennial complainer especially when it was time to sign a
contract or comply with a league rule.

But no one disputes Meusel’s five-tool talent on the field. This guy could run, hit, hit for power, field and had a shotgun for an arm. He played left field for one of the greatest Yankee teams in history and during his decade in New York the Yankees appeared in their first six World Series and earned the franchise’s first three championship banners. Meusel’s Yankee career ended when he was sold to the Reds after the 1929 season. During his ten seasons in pinstripes he hit 146 home runs, drove in 1,005 runs, hit .311 and maintained a .500 slugging percentage.

Long Bob shares his July 19th birthday with one of his old Murderer’s Row teammatesthis former Yankee southpaw , and this much more recent Yankee reliever.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1920 NYY 119 494 460 75 151 40 7 11 83 4 20 72 .328 .359 .517 .876
1921 NYY 149 647 598 104 190 40 16 24 135 17 34 88 .318 .356 .559 .915
1922 NYY 121 525 473 61 151 26 11 16 84 13 40 58 .319 .376 .522 .898
1923 NYY 132 503 460 59 144 29 10 9 91 13 31 52 .313 .359 .478 .837
1924 NYY 143 630 579 93 188 40 11 12 120 26 32 43 .325 .365 .494 .859
1925 NYY 156 697 624 101 181 34 12 33 138 13 54 55 .290 .348 .542 .889
1926 NYY 108 474 413 73 130 22 3 12 78 16 37 32 .315 .373 .470 .842
1927 NYY 135 582 516 75 174 47 9 8 103 24 45 58 .337 .393 .510 .902
1928 NYY 131 577 518 77 154 45 5 11 113 6 39 56 .297 .349 .467 .816
1929 NYY 100 414 391 46 102 15 3 10 57 2 17 42 .261 .292 .391 .683
11 Yrs 1407 6027 5475 826 1693 368 95 156 1064 143 375 619 .309 .356 .497 .852
NYY (10 yrs) 1294 5543 5032 764 1565 338 87 146 1002 134 349 556 .311 .358 .500 .858
CIN (1 yr) 113 484 443 62 128 30 8 10 62 9 26 63 .289 .330 .460 .790
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/18/2013.

July 18 – Happy Birthday Joe Torre

I was one of those Yankee fans who screamed the loudest when the recently departed George Steinbrenner pegged this guy to replace Buck Showalter as Yankee manager after the 1995 playoff loss to Seattle. We had good reason to be skeptics. Up until then, Torre had managed the Mets, Braves and Cardinals, losing an average of 90 games per year and compiling a dreadful .472 winning percentage. It seemed as if the Yankees had turned the corner with Showalter and when he got fired, one year after the miserable players strike, I was about ready to stop watching baseball.

Boy was I wrong. 1996 turned out to be one of the, if not the greatest years of my life as a Yankee fan and Joe Torre’s managerial skills were a huge part of the reason why. Not only was he adept at Steinbrenner diplomacy, he was also a great communicator with his players and it seemed every move he made from the dugout was the right one.

Joe’s tenure with the Yankees was a wonderful time in the team’s history (although my euphoria has been significantly dampened with the steroids usage disclosures involving several Yankees who played for Torre) and Yankee fans will always admire and be grateful for the calm, professional way he handled the immense pressure and responsibilities that came with the job.

Here’s a look at the regular season career Yankee won-loss records of the top five winning managers in pinstripe history:

Manager – World Championships Wins Losses Pct.
Joe McCarthy - 7 1460 867 .627
Joe Torre - 4 1173 767 .605
Casey Stengel - 7 1149 696 .623
Miller Huggins – 3 1067 719 .597
Ralph Houk - 2 944 806 .539

Joe shares a birthday with this Yankee pitcher, who started the first game ever in the newly renovated Yankee Stadium in April of 1976. This former Yankee pinch-hitter was also born on July 18th as was this much more recent NY utility infielder.

Here’s Torre’s season-by-season record as Yankee skipper and his lifetime totals by teams he managed during his career:

Rk Year Age Tm Lg G W L W-L% Finish
16 1996 55 New York Yankees AL 162 92 70 .568 1 WS Champs
17 1997 56 New York Yankees AL 162 96 66 .593 2
18 1998 57 New York Yankees AL 162 114 48 .704 1 WS Champs
19 1999 58 New York Yankees AL 162 98 64 .605 1 WS Champs
20 2000 59 New York Yankees AL 161 87 74 .540 1 WS Champs
21 2001 60 New York Yankees AL 161 95 65 .594 1 AL Pennant
22 2002 61 New York Yankees AL 161 103 58 .640 1
23 2003 62 New York Yankees AL 163 101 61 .623 1 AL Pennant
24 2004 63 New York Yankees AL 162 101 61 .623 1
25 2005 64 New York Yankees AL 162 95 67 .586 1
26 2006 65 New York Yankees AL 162 97 65 .599 1
27 2007 66 New York Yankees AL 162 94 68 .580 2
New York Mets 5 years 709 286 420 .405 5.3
Atlanta Braves 3 years 486 257 229 .529 2.0
St. Louis Cardinals 6 years 706 351 354 .498 3.5
New York Yankees 12 years 1942 1173 767 .605 1.2 6 Pennants and 4 World Series Titles
Los Angeles Dodgers 3 years 486 259 227 .533 2.0
29 years 4329 2326 1997 .538 2.6 6 Pennants and 4 World Series Titles
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/18/2013.

July 13 – Happy Birthday Jack Aker

Jack Aker was traded to New York from Seattle early in the 1969 regular season for fellow-reliever, Freddie Talbot. Yankee manager, Ralph Houk used his new right-hander as the team’s closer the last four months of that season and Aker responded well to that role by winning eight of twelve decisions and earning 11 saves. He then followed that performance up with his best season as a Yankee in 1970, when he recorded 16 saves, won 4 of 6 decisions and posted a sterling 2.06 ERA.  He was 16-10 during his three plus seasons in pinstripes with a total of 31 saves. He became expendable in 1972, after Sparky Lyle joined the team and when New York acquired Johnny Callison from the Cubs for a player to be named later in January of 1972, Aker became that player to be named later. His 32 saves for the lowly Athletics in 1966 led the American League. When he retired after the 1974 season, he had 123 lifetime saves.

Aker shares his July 13th birthday with this Yankee from the far east, this Hall of Fame pitcher and this former Yankee outfielder.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1969 NYY 8 4 .667 2.06 38 0 23 0 0 11 65.2 51 17 15 4 22 40 1.112
1970 NYY 4 2 .667 2.06 41 0 28 0 0 16 70.0 57 19 16 3 20 36 1.100
1971 NYY 4 4 .500 2.59 41 0 20 0 0 4 55.2 48 20 16 3 26 24 1.329
1972 NYY 0 0 3.00 4 0 4 0 0 0 6.0 5 2 2 0 3 1 1.333
11 Yrs 47 45 .511 3.28 495 0 321 0 0 123 746.0 679 312 272 63 274 404 1.277
OAK (5 yrs) 19 20 .487 3.54 220 0 142 0 0 58 343.1 302 146 135 30 121 210 1.232
NYY (4 yrs) 16 10 .615 2.23 124 0 75 0 0 31 197.1 161 58 49 10 71 101 1.176
CHC (2 yrs) 10 11 .476 3.51 95 0 71 0 0 29 130.2 141 64 51 12 46 61 1.431
NYM (1 yr) 2 1 .667 3.48 24 0 16 0 0 2 41.1 33 18 16 4 14 18 1.137
ATL (1 yr) 0 1 .000 3.78 17 0 8 0 0 0 16.2 17 11 7 3 9 7 1.560
SEP (1 yr) 0 2 .000 7.56 15 0 9 0 0 3 16.2 25 15 14 4 13 7 2.280
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/12/2013.